History & Culture

Wielding the pen and pistol

LIFELONG BOND Ram Prasad Bismil

LIFELONG BOND Ram Prasad Bismil   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Poet at heart and freedom fighter by choice, martyr Ram Prasad Bismil’s life continues to evoke patriotic feelings among people

He penned an Urdu poem back in 1921 in Patna which even today creates a storm in one’s heart. Yes, it is the well known Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna by Ram Prasad Bismil, which became a war cry for the country’s independence struggle against the British.

As much at ease with the pen, Ram Prasad Bismil was equally adept at wielding the pistol too. This fire-spitting revolutionary, believed in attaining freedom by force. Not for him the ahimsa of the Mahatma. To fund the movement, he took to looting along with his fellow revolutionaries. Arrested for this, he later looted the Government treasury from a train at Kakori on August 9, 1925. Found guilty by British, he was hanged at the age of 30, along with Ashfaqulla Khan, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri. A memorial has been built in Shahjahanpur his birthplace, where locals congregate to pay him tributes on June 11 and December 19, his birth and death anniversaries.

Having accepted death by choice, Bismil’s sacrifice like that of many others is seldom recalled. Bismil was recently remembered in the Capital, when Sanjay Dalmia’s initiative Bharat Maa Shaheed Samman Trust felicitated Bismil’s grand nephew Raj Bahadur Tomar. “After 70 years, we have neither recognised freedom fighters nor martyrs, and much less taken care of their families, left to fend on their own. Bearing this in mind, we decided to identify and help such families,” explains Dalmia. In fact, Shastri Devi, Bismil’s sister who is no more, struggled for her common needs when alive.

Reciting Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna, Tomar said the poem made him very proud and hoped it will to inspire people today too. “Bismil’s life and writing along with that of others, is essential to make today’s generation aware about the country freedom struggle. It will help tackle today’s prevailing corruption and communalism.”

Recalling Bismil’s life-long bond with Ashfaqulla Khan, Tomar, said, “Thick friends, they lived and worked together. It is said in the same room Bismil conducted havan while Khan offered namaz. Indeed, their life needs to be showcased as an example to follow.” Talking about them, Ashfaq Ullah Khan, Khan’s grandson, revealed that initially Bismil was reluctant to admit Khan in Hindustan Republican Association he had formed. “Like other Pathans of Shahjahanpur, Khan’s family was rich and well-placed. His father was a kotwal and hence Bismil took time to draft him into the party. Bismil admitted that Khan had to bear a lot of pressure to disown him but never yielded. Their friendship was higher than the usual ones as it was based on common ideology, ideals and patriotism.”

Ashfaqullah Khan

Ashfaqullah Khan  

Drawing attention to Bismil literary contribution, Ashfaq said, “He had translated Bengali books Bolshevikon Ki Kartoot and Yogik Sadhan, wrote a collection of poems, Man Ki Lahar and Swadeshi Rang. For him, literature was a means to an end of inspiring others and keeping up the morale of his comrades.” He went on to narrate how his grandfather too wrote on similar lines as Bismil. “Knowing that he’ll never see independent India during his life, Bismil wrote a poem, wishing to be reborn to serve his motherland again. Khan penned that being a Muslim he, like Bismil, could not talk about rebirth but if he were to meet the Almighty, he would beg for being reborn in India instead of jannat.”

Present on the occasion was Aseem Rathore, grandson of Mahavir Singh, one of those who died at Port Blair due to force feeding during his incarceration in Andaman and Nicobar. “Bismil, Ashfaqualla, Mahavirji like other freedom fighters, stressed the need to become an empathetic and humane person and not just good in studies. Dreaming of independence, they wanted Indian society to be just, equal and secular. Unfortunately, the Partition undid all their efforts.”

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:42:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/wielding-the-pen-and-pistol/article23319486.ece

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